Biosecurity Basics

Converting biosecurity awareness into action in six key steps

With the ever increasing risk of a pest or disease incursion in the wine industry and in Australia, you might be wondering where to start with biosecurity and farm-gate hygiene on your property to help protect you from the entry and spread of pests, diseases and weeds.

Vinehealth Australia has produced a range of materials to raise your awareness of specific biosecurity issues, but we now need to convert this awareness into action.

To assist, we have devised the following step-by-step process which we recommend you undertake to ensure you firstly identify your key biosecurity risks, and secondly put in place measures to mitigate these risks. The ultimate aim is for biosecurity activities to become embedded in your everyday practices.

STEP 1: Understand the impact a significant pest incursion could have on your business

Importance

Understand the impact of a significant biosecurity incursion on your business and measure what you have to lose. This will help to motivate action.

Consider this:

  • Do you insure your vines against fire?
  • Do you apply additional sprays if the weather is conducive to increased pest pressure?
  • Have you purchased additional water in a hot, dry season?
  • Have you installed a range of frost control systems if you are in a frost-prone area?

These are all measures put in place to mitigate the risk and impact on your business.

What are you doing to protect yourself from a biosecurity incursion?

Detail

For a vineyard, implications of a biosecurity incursion and being inside a quarantine zone, are likely to include:

  • A significant decrease in vine productivity and potentially, vine death.
    • The specific pest will affect the rate of this deterioration. For example, Xylella fastidiosa (a bacterium causing Pierce’s Disease in grapevines and acknowledged as Australia’s number one unwanted plant pest) has been found to cause vine death in 1-2 years, whereas phylloxera may take 5-6 years.
  • Restrictions on moving grapes from a vineyard for processing to limit the spread of the pest.
    • In the initial stages of an incursion, your grape quality and yield may deteriorate while processing options are being decided.
    • Your contracted processor may no longer be able to receive your grapes if your vineyard is inside the quarantine zone and your processor is outside the zone.
  • Restrictions on moving machinery and equipment off your property.
    • Machinery and equipment is likely to require a disinfestation treatment on-property prior to being allowed to move off, and be accompanied by documentation as proof of the treatment.
  • Set up of quarantine facilities onsite, for example a heat shed, to enable continued movement of machinery and equipment off your property. These facilities will be an added cost to doing business which may be ongoing if eradication of the pest is not deemed possible.
    • Time to set up such facilities is also likely to impact the rate of machinery and equipment movement off your property in the initial stages of an incursion.
  • Additional machinery, equipment and personnel for businesses owning multiple vineyards.
    • You may decide to confine staff, machinery and equipment to single vineyards, rather than continue to share these between owned vineyard properties and risk pest spread.

For a winery, implications of a biosecurity incursion and being outside a quarantine zone, are likely to include:

  • Permanent lack of access to contracted winegrapes from inside a quarantine zone.
    • If this comprises a large proportion of your intake, you may consider the merits of applying for a boundary alteration to facilitate inclusion in the quarantine zone.
    • To instead facilitate movement of unfiltered juice out of the quarantine zone where a legal alternative to moving winegrapes, access to processing capacity inside the quarantine zone would need to be arranged.
    • If a brand marketing strategy was based on old vines or single vineyards which post quarantine are no longer accessible to the winery in either grape or juice form, a new marketing story will need to be developed.
    • Potential requirement to access grapes from other regions to fulfill desired intake.

For a winery, implications of a biosecurity incursion and being inside a quarantine zone, are likely to include:

  • Temporary lack of access to contracted winegrapes also inside a quarantine zone, as regulatory systems are put in place, meaning harvest is delayed and grape quality may be decreased.
  • Changes to marketing strategies.
    • As vineyards become unproductive and require replanting, marketing strategies based on old vines and single vineyards will need to be revisited.
  • Set up and running costs of quarantine facilities.
    • If the winery is processing grapes from outside the quarantine zone, empty grape bins and bulk trucks entering the quarantine zone will require a disinfestation treatment such as hot water or dry heat, prior to leaving the quarantine zone again.
  • Farm-gate hygiene policies for staff who visit multiple vineyards both inside the quarantine zone and travelling from inside to outside the quarantine zone and return, to ensure their clothing, footwear and vehicles do not contribute to pest spread.
  • Restrictions on the movement of winery waste products such as grape marc out of a quarantine zone.
    • Requirement to find alternative disposal or reuse options inside the zone that do not involve application of uncomposted marc to vineyards.

STEP 2: Quantify the value of your business now and what it means to you

Importance

As per Step 1

Detail

Quantification of the value of your business now and what it means to you, should consider:

  • That the greater the value of your business to you, the more you have to protect in light of a significant plant pest incursion.
    • Quantifying the value of your business is important to do periodically, not only from an insurance perspective but also as a reminder to yourself of who is relying on your business to operate.
  • Both the tangible and intangible components.
    • For tangible components, consider assets including your grapevines (taking into account vine age), land (including perhaps a unique or sought-after soil type) and water licenses, infrastructure including sheds, winery, houses, cellar door, restaurant, other tourism offerings, irrigation and trellis.
    • For intangible components, consider the history of your property and brands, restoration activities and brand recognition – all of which are hard to replace.
  • The social aspects of your business, including the number of families your business supports directly through employment.
  • Replacement costs and that in some situations, replacing ‘like for like’ will not be possible (e.g. old vines).
    • After a significant plant pest incursion, it is probable that your replanting strategy will need to include some form of resistant or tolerant rootstock, the associated costs of this material and its potential poor availability.
    • You will need to consider how to replace any unique varieties you might currently have planted – either sourcing suitable planting material within Australia that you can access or having to reimport from overseas.
    • You also need to account for the lag to full production, potentially regaining brand reputation and maintaining continuity of supply in the meantime if you can source grapes from elsewhere.

STEP 3: Be aware of the pests and diseases most likely to cause significant harm and where to report anything unusual

Importance

Growers are generally well aware of the common grapevine pests and diseases impacting vineyards on a frequent basis, but not so aware of those causing damage overseas that are either not yet in Australia, or are only confined to parts of the country.

Detail

  • Looking out for and reporting unexplained vine growth symptoms or unusual pests in your vineyard is really important.
    • This can limit pest spread, meaning cost of control and impact is likely to be lower.  
    • Seeking help to identify an issue, whether it is a high priority plant pest or not, is also vital to ensure that the appropriate form of control can be applied.
  • It is important that you are aware of the high priority pests and diseases for the wine industry, you know how to recognise them, you know what parts of the vine they affect and what time of the year they are most visible.
    • Use Vinehealth Australia’s poster, If You Spot Me, Report Me! to help familiarise yourself with these pests, as well as the Descriptive table of information on characteristic vine symptoms, impacts on vine growth and fruit quality, and when to monitor.
  • If you purchase machinery or equipment from overseas or other items such as wine barrels, it is also vital that you thoroughly check these, as well as the containers they arrive in, for hitchhiker pests.
    • These pests could do considerable damage not only to grapevines but also other horticultural crops and can be significant nuisance pests to households.
  • If you do find unexplained vine growth symptoms or unusual pests, we urge you to report them to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 (which is accessible in each state) or call Vinehealth Australia on (08) 8273 0550 for assistance.

STEP 4: Identify who creates the biosecurity risk associated with your property

Importance

Most businesses don’t operate in isolation. Many employ others to undertake activities. Often these people and their machinery and equipment move between properties and therefore present a risk of picking up and spreading pests, diseases and weeds.

Detail

  • In order to identify who is a biosecurity risk creator for your business, you need to consider your links within the industry.
    • This will highlight both incoming and outgoing biosecurity risks for your business that need to be reviewed and managed.
    • It will also demonstrate that your actions or inactions in terms of farm-gate hygiene won’t just affect your business but can also have far reaching consequences for other grape and wine businesses.
  • Begin by considering what direct links you, your family and your staff have with neighbours, within your region, within your state and between states. It might be helpful to consider all of the activities you undertake during the year for each part of your business to complete your list. 
    • Who visits your property and accesses your vines?
    • What contractors, suppliers and seasonal workers do you use during the year for different activities?
    • Do you encourage livestock agistment on your property?
    • Do you have any tourism associated with your business like a cellar door, restaurant or accommodation?  
    • Do you work in other vineyards as well as your own business?
    • Do you use your own machinery or equipment on other vineyards?

STEP 5: Identify the key pathways for pests, diseases and weeds to enter your property

Importance

Identifying the pathways of entry allows you to put in place appropriate measures to reduce each of these risks.

Detail

  • Once you have a list of who creates the biosecurity risk associated with your property in STEP 4, you can then identify commonalities in how this risk occurs. These commonalities will be the pathways or routes by which a pest, disease or weed could enter your property or enter a property you or your staff are visiting. Each identified pathway or route will have its own set of risk mitigation activities.
  • Common pathways of entry and spread of pests to consider that you can control, include:
    • People – through contaminated footwear and clothing.
    • Machinery and equipment – through harbouring pests which might be caught in soil or grapevine material.
    • Grapevine material – pests can occur inside or on planting material, inside grape bunches, on shoots or roots or leaves, in grape juice or inside grape marc.
    • Livestock – through harbouring pests which might be caught in soil or on wool, hair or fur.
    • Cargo and containers.

STEP 6: Implement practical steps to minimise the risk of a pest or disease incursion for each risk pathway

Importance

Taking control of the biosecurity risk associated with your business will stand you in good stead to assist in the prevention of a significant plant pest incursion.

Detail

The pathways of routes of pest entry identified in STEP 5 can be negated on your property through the implementation of some simple activities:

  • Planting with high health status propagation material – this means planting material that is free from pests including viruses.
  • Some viruses, alone or in combination with others, can greatly affect the long term sustainability of your vineyard.
  • Seek out high health planting material from reputable nurseries and vine improvement associations and request proof of virus testing prior to purchase.
  • Restricting people and vehicle access to your vineyards – use barriers such as gates, fences and hedges to prevent easy access to your vine rows.
    • Use appropriate signage at your entrances and other access points to your vine rows to convey expectations of your visitors.
      • At ‘trade’ entrances, use signage that conveys the need to report to the owner or manager upon entry and signage that identifies designated parking areas for visitor vehicles. Preferably these parking areas are hard pack and away from vines. Consider options like availing your vineyard vehicles to visitors who must access your vines.
      • For consumer-facing entrances such as those near cellar doors or restaurants where your vines are accessible, convey the message of not walking into the vines rows with signs that explain the risk.
    • Consider also that if your property’s parking areas facilitate the movement of soil off your property, this could be a barrier to vehicle movement offsite in light of a significant plant pest incursion. 
  • Requiring all visitors to report on arrival – this is often your first chance to prohibit access to your vineyard for visitors who pose a heightened risk.
    • You must ask every visitor to your vineyard what wine regions they have visited in the past 21 days (including overseas travel) and if they walked down vine rows in these regions.
    • You also need to record the items they have brought with them to use on your vineyard (machinery, equipment, vehicles) and where and when these items were previously used and what cleaning and disinfestation has been completed; to assess the risk that these items pose to your vines.
    • Maintaining visitor records is also vital to assist with traceback and traceforward activities in an incursion and can be important in limiting the overall spread and impact of a significant plant pest.
  • Training staff and visitors on disinfestation procedures – this is important to ensure that appropriate disinfestation procedures are carried out for the item being disinfested and that the correct protocol is used to ensure efficacy of the treatment.
    • State Plant Quarantine Standards, or equivalent, will outline valid disinfestation options (including dry heat treatment or hot water treatment for which temperature and time specifications will be prescribed) for importing regulated items.
  • Training staff in effective monitoring and reporting of pests – the more eyes on your vineyard looking out for unexplained vine growth symptoms or unusual pests, the greater the chance you will detect these early and limit spread and therefore impact.
    • Ensure also that if you are importing cargo, including machinery or barrels from overseas, you thoroughly check them and the shipping containers for hitchhiker pests well away from vineyards.
    • Seek help to identify issues early by contacting the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or by calling Vinehealth Australia on (08) 8273 0550. A delay in reporting can also limit compensation where owner cost reimbursements may have applied.
  • Being aware of regulated items and their associated legal movement requirements and checking compliance against these – there are legal requirements for moving items that pose a significant pest risk between states and quarantine zones.
    • Regarding grape phylloxera, these items include grapevine planting material, machinery and equipment used on vineyard soil, grapes and grape products, diagnostic samples and vineyard soils.
      • You must adhere to these legal movement requirements (which will include obtaining specific documentation, cleaning free of soil and plant material, perhaps disinfecting the item, registering as an importer and perhaps having the item inspected on arrival into your state or quarantine area).
    • You also need to check that items you use on your property that have been imported by others also adhere to these legal movement requirements to ensure they pose no biosecurity risk to your vines. 
  • Adopting a ‘clean in, clean out’ policy for machinery and equipment – this is an important practice to observe for any of your own machinery and equipment being used both on your vineyard and off-site, and also for any contractor-owned machinery and equipment coming onto your property that has been used on other vineyards.
    • Ensuring items are clean of soil and plant material prior to entry and upon exit will limit both the entry and spread of pests, diseases and weeds between vineyards.
    • This does rely on access to a washdown area; preferably a hard stand area with high pressure water and either some form of water capture or at least, water runoff diverted away from vineyards.
    • Consider how many of your vineyards have washdown facilities to enable this ‘clean in, clean out’ policy.
  • If you agist livestock such as sheep in your vineyards, ensure you are not introducing a pest, disease or weed into your vineyard.
    • Use an agistment agreement to pose the right questions to verify where the sheep have come from, what weeds they might be carrying, and that the truck delivering the sheep adheres to your strict entry requirements.